Divine Connection

Beautiful Asana

 JOY in asana. On a beautiful sunny day, in a deserted, tranquil park ...

In this tree-stump version/modification of chakrasana, the arms learn how to take the weight ... the back doesn't have to arch quite as much as it would have to in the normal version, yet all the mucles must co-ordinate together. 

Sometimes modifications of asanas allow you to 'play' and to be 'playful' liberating you from "I cant" into "I can".  

Eventually the true asana will reveal itself to you - to both body and mind.

The modified performance of an asana is still asana if there is mindfulness and slow breathing, and therefore beautiful for the body - but also, all asana is beautiful for the mind.

Students can be intimidated by their inability to reach a finer state in asana - and often decide not to do the practice at all. But this should not be the case - whoever said asana has to be perfect?  If toddlers had the idea they had to be perfect they would never progress in walking, talking and creating - giving up the joy of the process  -  because they were intimidated. Most of us are spiritual toddlers - so lets enjoy the journey. By watching our processes and making some small adjustment we learn how to progress ourselves. Observing and adjusting, this is what will help us reach finer states - and not just with asanas, either. Everything we do.

If you are struggling with an asana, find the nearest approximation to it - and hold that position for three full minutes. For example, below, are approximations of the half shoulder-stand.  Use cushions and blankets which will help the body to mimick that position - or a near approximation to it - and then hold it for 1 - 3 minutes. Hold only for 10 - 60 seconds if you are unwell, weak, or stressed ... and do it at least 4 out of 7 days to encourage the bodymind to know the position. 
(The half, or full, shoulder stand is not suitable for those with high blood pressure unless advised it is, by their doctor).

If you are unwell, or tired and stressed simply relax in this supremely modified and supremely useful position and make no effort at all. This is quite perfect enough. 

When both the body and the mind have adjusted to the shape of the position on the blankets, and to the inversion, you can then raise one leg to begin the process towards the perfect asana. Raise one foot to the ceiling, keeping the buttocks ON the blankets. hold the leg still in that position for as long as you can manage and breathe peacefully for that duration. During this modification increase the holding duration by 30 seconds per week.

When strong enough, raise the buttocks OFF the blanket when raising the one leg.

Elongate and refine the breath during the practice. 

When you feel strong enough to lift  both feet to the ceiling keep the back and buttocks on the blankets, bend the knees to the chest and raise the legs from there. When you feel ready, go to the full practice.

 When ready for the full asana, remove the pile of blankets.  Raise both legs - and place the hands under the hips to support the body with the arms. Be sure to keep activating the thigh muscles and lifting them upwards the entire time.
Ensure the legs are raised as vertically as possible, at first the feet may tend to come over the face, but gradually ease the legs backwards until the legs are vertical and the feet are dorsi-flexed.
Once you reach this capability increase the holding duration by one minute per week.

Asanas for Lightness in BodyMind

There is no separation between the body and the mind, they are interwoven and may be experienced as the bodymind complex where there is an expanded awareness. Endorphins are testimony to this, they make the body healthy and the mind happy – and vice versa. In APMB Sri Swami Satyananda says “the gross form of the mind is the body and the subtle form of the body is the mind”. It is important to realize that this mind includes lower and higher mind.

Yoga may be considered, amongst other things, to cause attitudinal healing because its techniques help us towards being happy and optimistic. Any one who has practiced any form of yoga knows this to be true, both immediately it is practiced – and in the long term. Sri Swami Satyananda discusses this in his wonderful text A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya.

He identifies the effects asana has on
1)  the endocrine system and therefore the mind 
2) the integration of  all the bodily systems through harmonizing each one
3) increasing prana and harmonizing it throughout the pranic body
4) bringing the breath from erratic and unrhythmic to rhythmic thereby calming the nervous system
5)  the mental and emotional attitudes present in the mind i.e. being aware in the asana during each moment, not allowing the mind to wander, reveals tensions and joys in the mind and helps to release and dislodge them

Anyone who has practiced asana with awareness will have noticed that specific asanas bring out specific responses from the mind e.g. some asanas unearth irritation, others bring a frown, some bring up lightness and joy. The list of what asanas bring out is endless. The funny thing is that some people think the asana they are practicing is putting these feelings in!

Put asana back in your life, unearth more layers of tension so that the shadows are released and Lightness shines through.

Asana - according to Swami Satyananda

The less physical effort that is required, the better.

Don't hurry under any circumstances, do asanas at a normal slow, relaxed pace.
Don't use excessive force to attain the final positions of the asanas. Your muscles should be slowly encouraged to stretch over a period of time - not stretched and severely strained in one day.

A blanket or rug should be placed on the floor at the place of practice. Don't use a spongy mattress and dont practice on the bare floor.

Don't practice asana if you are ill with a cold or diarrhoea, etc. At these times the body is directing its energy to specific areas to fight the illness; let it perform its duties.

We all have differently shaped bodies and some people are able to stretch easier than others. But this is not indicative of how well a person is performing an asana, for one person may perform an asana perfectly but his awareness is jumping from here to there; while another person may not physically perform the asana very well but his awareness may be on the breath and the movements. In this case it is the latter who is performing the asana much better than the former.
A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga & Kriya, by Swami Satyananda.

The bottomline about asana is that it aims to increase your awareness of yourself. In doing so the life-force will unblock and flow more profoundly increasing your physical, mental and emotional health. When the lie-force flows wisdom and health flow simultaneously.

Asanas and Annamaya and Pranamaya kosha
Extract taken from
the electronic Satyananda Yoga Journal archives.

Asanas greatly influence the functioning of the endocrine system. We know the important role the endocrine glands play during stress adaptation, by secreting the stress hormones. There is such an intricate relationship between the glands that one malfunctioning gland can cause the disruption of the whole system.

Asanas bring about harmony in the functioning of the various other bodily systems, which are closely 'interwoven, such as the circulatory, nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems. Any disruption in the proper working relationship between these systems results in loss of health and body efficiency. Here again, all these systems play an active role during the body's adaptation to stress.

The subtle influence asanas bring about in the body is in the pranamaya kosha or the energy sheath. Pranamaya kosha is pervaded by what is known as bio-plasma or bioluminescence or prana, which the Kirlians had photographed for the first time. This energy travels in and around the body in specific pathways or the nadis, creating the aura around the bodies. These nadis or pathways become easily blocked, and prana gets congested in certain areas. When this happens, it leads to physical and mental disorders. Prana is also intimately connected to the mind. The free flow of prana brought about by asanas, leads to mental equilibrium and calmness.

Rapid and irregular breathing signifies tension in the mind and body, whereas slow, deep and rhythmical breathing indicates both calmness in the mind and good health. The practice of asana brings about mental and emotional equanimity, by slowing down the breathing, and by deepening the inhalation and exhalation.

Finally, the practice of asana with body and breath awareness, keeps the mind off tension and worry, at least during the practice. However, the temporary relaxation achieved during the practice, gradually builds up to bring permanent changes in one's mental and emotional makeup. As our mental attitude is reflected in our body, in the same way physical poise achieved during the practice of asanas has a corresponding effect on the mind.